In its seven hundred and more years of existence, Peterhouse has made a contribution to the wellbeing of the society of which it is a part quite disproportionate to its size. It is that contribution, expressed through the life and work of all those who have been educated here and who have discovered something of their aspirations and potential within its walls, which forms its abiding legacy to the life of the nation and of the world.
This contribution is felt most keenly and most personally by those who have themselves gained from their time here. Down the generations, Petreans have benefited from the generosity of those who have gone before them, and have in their turn given back to the College. This is a pattern that goes back to the first great act of benefaction by the Founder himself, Hugo de Balsham, Bishop of Ely, in 1284.
Each experience of Peterhouse is a personal one; yet each derives from the foundations laid by those who have gone before. Hence the College is an entity beyond time and space: a community of the living, the dead, and those as yet unknown. Its legacy is a living one; and it aims to extend to future generations, in changing circumstances at which we can only guess, its statutory duty and privilege of the furtherance of education, religion, learning and research.
In response to changing needs and circumstances, Peterhouse maintains the importance of the tradition of benefaction which was for so many years, and must become again, the foundation on which alone its security can be built. Above all in an unsympathetic and uncertain public funding environment, the College must look to its own resources and to its own supporters if it is to retain the independence to command and deploy its own financial security in defence of its own purposes. Only by those means can Peterhouse secure the financial independence and resilience which are necessary preconditions of the academic excellence, development of talent and formation of character on which the continuance of its great contribution to society depend. This is more than ever true at a time when both the costs involved in the attainment of excellence, and society’s legitimate expectations of the work which a college ought to do, are so high.